The marvel of Monemvasia

5th - 7th June

After our intrepid rounding of the Tip of Doom we found space on a quay in Monemvasia, where we ended up staying for 3 nights. After rocky nights at anchor we needed sleep, but initially sleep was postponed by heat. The southerly winds are strange and debilitating, hypnotic, time slows down and not much is able to take place. When the heat lifts it is as if waking from a slumber.

The harbour in Monemvasia turned out to be a great spot for turtle watching.
Three turtles come every day, following the fishing boats. Turtles are not vegetarians. The fishermen have names for them. One of them is called Christina.
Click HERE for Paul's turtle footage

I decided to dive in and try a bit of underwater photography with the waterproof camera Jean gave us. In my excitement I pressed video instead so have some rather wobbly footage which includes me following the turtle under the pontoon, a briefly claustrophobic experience. One of the wobbly video moments was when I felt a dead fish glide slimily over my shoulder.
See swimming with turtles HERE

Monemvasia gave us not only turtle action however but the gift of free water on the quay. Time to do some laundry. Good drying weather.
With the heat, the turtles and the laundry it took us a while to explore the old town of Monemvasia. The town was built on an island accessible only by a causeway from the mainland, hence its name meaning 'single entrance'. All motorised vehicles are left at the entrance.
How this is not a World Heritage Site beats me. It is singular. Another one of these ancient fortifications built on unimpregnable topology but this one is another level of astounding. The island rises straight out of the sea on all sides, and the town looks carved into the rock rather than crafted from it. The dwellings, the rock, the earth and the vegetation blend together in a subtle colourful medley, in this dramatic setting. It is just stunningly beautiful.
The town goes back to the Byzantinoes of 600BC but was expanded and adapted by the Venetians and the Turks in turn, churches being turned into mosques and back again. The fortifications at the top enclosed a town that has now all but crumbled apart from some water cisterns and a church.
The entrance to the upper fortifications is impressive.
Click HERE to see the view
How would anyone dare to even think they could take this place by force? There are still rusty bullet holes in the heavy door testifying to past attempts. Invasions did succeed. Maybe using some of these cannon balls.
The lower town is a patchwork of cobbled alleys between tiny two story houses, many of which have been converted into boutique hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, and holiday homes, but there are also still some permanent dwellings occupied by locals and a number of churches that appear very much in use.
Quite a few foreigners own homes here in which they live for some of the year and are welcomed as part of the community, if we are to believe a waiter we spoke to. A shuttle bus runs into the new settlement on the other side of the causeway where there are shops, a school etc. But how to properly describe the beauty of the place? It defies belief and description.
Fare thee well Monemvasia